Sermon outline: Piling up Stones

This sermon was preached on Sunday 10th April in the Morning Service. The following is a sermon outline. As such it’s not intended to be read as an article!

Joshua Chapter 4:1-9


  • Where we are going in the next couple of weeks.
  • Setting the scene: God’s people have followed through the wilderness and now they stand at the edge of the promised land and on the brink of the Jordan river. In order to be obedient to God’s call now they we need to cross over.
  • Joshua Chapter 3 tells us what God will do for his people. God promises that as the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the covenant enter the Jordan so the river will be “cut off from flowing.” (3v13)
  • The priests enter the river and the river bed becomes dry. As the priests stand in the bed of the river, God’s people are able to cross over on dry ground.
  • Now read Joshua 4:1-9

Main point: The importance of spiritual waypoints. In Joshua Chapter 4 we find God’s people setting up a spiritual waypoint.

  • What do I mean by a Spiritual waypoint? ** GPS Waypoints. Mark something, remember something, recover something, revisit something, find your direction. I will return to this later.

  • The people take twelve stones from the bed of the Jordan and set them up on the edge of river in the place where they have camped.

  • What is going on?

  • We are told the reason for this pile of stones in v 6, and v 21. These stones are to be a memorial. A permanent reminder that God had acted in miraculous power for them.

  • This was a place where God had acted for them.

  • These stones were from the bottom of the river (How do you do that?)

  • These stones are from the place where God was (Where the feet of the priests carrying the ark had stood (v3) God had been with them in the crossing of the river.

  • These stones are a reminder of their calling. Here God had made it possible for them to obey him and enter into their calling to inhabit and subdue the promised land.

As I read on through the book of Joshua I noticed that there are other piles of stones:

  • A pile of stones to mark a place of sin and rebellion against God. Joshua 7 tells of a pile of stones raised over the body of Achan, punished for his sin against God. A pile we are told that is “there to this day” (Compare with 4:9)

  • A pile of stones to mark victory in a place of previous failure. Joshua 8 tells of final victory over the city of Ai, and of the burial of the king of Ai under a pile of stones, that “stands there to this day”

  • A mound of stones to worship God and celebrate covenant. The later part of Joshua 8 tells of the building of an altar of unworked stones. It is a pile of stones, but in some ways does not fit the patter of the other mounds. (There is no ‘remains to this day’ or similar comment) Nevertheless it does serve as a Spiritual waypoint. Joshua writes the law on the altar.

  • A pile of stones to mark a place of victory over enemies and a time of threat. Joshua 10 tells the story of the defeat of the five Amorite kings. Their bodies are placed in a cave and a pile of stones erected that “remains to this day”

  • A pile of stones to remind Israel to be faithful to God. Again the account in Joshua 24 of Joshua erecting a stone as one of his final acts does not follow the pattern of the other accounts, but the purpose is that it should act as a spiritual waypoint. It is to remind Israel to be faithful to God and not to “deal falsely with your God”

Main point: The importance to us of spiritual waypoints as places for us to Mark something, remember something, recover something, revisit something, find your direction, and make decisions about direction.

What are these waypoints for?


Define us

Places of decision

Places of hope

Places of conviction

Reminders for behavior

Places of warning – sin and the consequences

Places that stir our faith.

Some comments about building waypoints, or what waypoints can we build.

  • Communion. We have been thinking about how God’s word commands us to remember as we take communion.
  • Baptism functions as a waypoint. It means so much more, but it is a way of marking a transition.
  • Writing it down. Encourage people wrestling with the calling of God, seeing God’s powerful intervention in their lives to write it down. So that it’s something to come back to. Did Israel ever think “Does God really want us here?” “Is God really with us?”
  • Taking time to remember. The value of thinking back and recognizing places where God has been at work as a way of finding courage and direction for now. The old hymn “Count your blessings” God has built the places where waypoints ought to bebilt, and all we need to do is visit.

Time of reflection

A time of being still before God to take notice of the spiritual waypoints in our lives. Pray to Invite God by his spirit to remind us of the places where he has been at work in our lives.

  • Remember when you became a believer

  • Remember when you were baptized

  • Remember a place of God’s calling. Remember how he opened the door for you to respond.

  • Remember a place of God’s power.

  • Remember a place of sin. A place of grace and forgiveness and restoration.

  • Remember a place of victory over enemies.

  • Remember a place where you met with God

  • Remember a place where God has spoken to you in his word. A place where he called you to fidelity.

Respond in prayer and song


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